Joining in: sport and rec for kids with disabilities

For children with disabilities participating in sport and recreational activities has lots of pluses. It promotes inclusion, minimises de-conditioning, optimises physical functioning, and enhances overall well being", says Kate Clark, Rehab2Kids Manager.

The Rehabilitation Units at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital recently asked parents about which sport and recreation activities their children currently participate in or would like to participate in.

"We wanted to find out about the difficulties parents and carers face in finding suitable activities for their children and what aspects in service provision are important to them", Kate said.

There were 212 responses from families and patients of our Rehab2Kids and Kids Rehab services. Parents and carers said they need more support in assessing which activities are suitable for children with disabilities.

Our next step was to personally contact a selection of credible organisations and ask them about how they cater for kids with disabilities. We asked them about staff training and ratios of supervision and the provision of safety equipment. As a result, we compiled this list of recreational activity providers. We organised them into water-based activities, gymnastics, outdoor recreation and art and music activities to make it easier to sort through. Organisations on the list all stated they have the ability to modify activities for children with special needs.

We’ll be updating it regularly so that families can dip in and out to find things that interest their kids.

On the same page is a set of questions for ‘interviewing’ service providers on how they design, deliver and supervise children with disabilities. It’s critical that parents do this to address any concerns they may have.

The survey responses also indicated that parents wanted us to offer onsite activities.

So here at Rehab2Kids at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, we developed several small therapy sessions for Thursday afternoons for inpatients and outpatients. Tennis Australia will be supporting these sessions in term 4.

Being physically active encourages social interaction and provides a sense of belonging. It promotes better mental health and self-esteem. And remember, if your child doesn’t like sport, there’s still lots of things they can do. 

Many art galleries have excellent programs for children with disabilities. The Bella program at the MCA comes to mind and the Art Gallery of NSW also has an extensive access program. Several dance organisations cater specifically for children with disabilities such as Sydney Dance Rhythms and Dance Ability, while Expression Sound provide music lessons and music therapy. There is a longer list on the website.

Please let us know of organisations you recommend and we’ll check them out and add them to our website to share with others."

Kate Clark, Rehabilitation Services Manager, Rehab2Kids